Friday, February 26, 2010


broken wind

Pictures and word-pictures... Thank you, Claire for your beautiful work.

Windows by Claire Burge.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pittsburgh in Sestina

Buildings on Penn

Pittsburgh, you inspire. Here is where I will push myself harder, like I said I would. Today in sestina. A form poem, hard on my pen, on my mind.



Snow has fallen on Penn Avenue,
as golden morning, fallen, melting
and I walk past Heinz dead sign
pouring wishes red by ruffled bird
head cut near booted print of water
gathered on these winter shoes.

Morning meets our faces, lights our shoes
traipsing past chrysanthemums on Avenue;
I wonder if this smiling man wants water
even as he fingers tunes, accordion melting
Pittsburgh into Italy like blue crow bird
balancing on wires, pointing like a sign

to better days or worse days, unsign
my heart in city's morning, under shoes
like memories of Italy if I were crow bird
coming faster than a ship to Avenue,
bringing back a tune for you, melting
from the sun, off my wings like water

and you like red accordion, under water
moved with motion slow, muffled sign
of lilting love trembled fingers melting,
lay your undulating heart like shoes
skirting ice, skirting mud on Avenue
tipping toes to sky tapping like a bird

against a building, aged, flocked with bird
and bird and bird, flicking winged water
at a golden sun, over market on the Avenue,
daring with their beaks a silver studded sign
directing cars to park like spotted shoes
that walked the day, trod your memory melting

like reflections on the glass, Pittsburgh melting
old against the morning like a crow black bird
in final flight, mocking if he could your tap of shoes
that crack and split the concrete, splash the water
of my heart, poured out like Heinz red neon sign
drifting 'midst lost tune of accordion on Avenue

fading, fading like the light of morning over water
dreaming, dreaming for the surety of one last sign
clapping, clapping like a shoe or bird on melting Avenue.

building reflections

Pittsburgh at Sunrise

Head of a Bird

Golden Bridge

Accordian Player

Heinz Sign

Ice Fingers

Pittsburgh photos, by L.L. Barkat.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tiptoe Thru the Inn and Geneva

College Inn

After flight delays, long rides through heavy snows, a quick bite of pizza with Dean and Nancy Smith and a wonderful English teacher (Megan, who loves theories... oh, what was your husband's name? :) , a presentation and a good conversation with Keith Martel and a group of Geneva College students, it is late and cold. I arrive and the lights are on.

The Inn on College Hill Sign

This is the inn where I will find a silent room upstairs, a generous breakfast of quiche, fruit, blueberry bread and two kinds of juice (but I forego the juices for green tea).


It is too cold to sit on the porch the next day. I speak in the morning to a group of 1300-ish students in chapel, then at a Faculty Luncheon. In both talks I do what I want to do from now on: include poetry. Poetry meets the heart in secret ways.

One sweet girl asks me what I think about making a living as a poet. I wish that were possible. For most poets it is not. Yet I encourage her to make a life of poetry even if she can't make a living.

Geneva College Building

Geneva College Bell

To my delight, I meet many aspiring poets at Geneva. In the evening the English Club takes me to dinner at the dining hall. We laugh a lot and read some Eastern poets... and Aquinas (who makes us blush with a rather unusual metaphor... but I will let Sarah, Mary, Emma, Laura, Jessica, Josh or Andy tell you about that :).

The next day, the English Club graces me again, with a treat of scones and tea just up the road. My time is almost finished here.

Sitting Room

During precious and unusual hours to myself, what shall I do?

I nap, and nap again. I write about the new things I am doing on my art pilgrimage. I take my camera and tiptoe through the inn...

Living Room

Window Seat

At the window seat I linger, read a small bit of Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within, consider the sunlight on aged wood and think of my dear friend Ann (whose house, for some reason, always has perfect light).

And I decide I want to make a life of poetry, even if I can't make a living. I want to read more poets, push myself harder than I have, try new forms. Sometimes in silence and empty moments we find these strange, full resolutions.

Grandfather Clock

The clock ticks, hands turn, day opens and it is time. I am off to Pittsburgh...

Geneva College and Inn on College Hill photos by L.L. Barkat.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Loving Monday: Chocolate Bread and Stripey Cookies

Shoes at the Inn

It's been almost a week since most of the flights were cancelled, except one little flight to Pittsburgh: the one where I met (Richard?), who works at Novartis, in the financial department.

(Here is the beginning of a long plea of forgive-me-if-I've-forgotten-or-altered-your-name-I-met-so-many-people-in-the-span-of-six-days. This coming week I will be sharing about my time at Geneva College and Jubilee... I do remember your faces even if I somehow slip with your names).

What does it matter that I met Richard? And that someone flew the plane through blinding snow? What does it matter that someone made the seats we sat in, or that another man refused to move his small bag from the overhead compartment so I could put my big suitcase somewhere?

And the pizza I ate that night in haste, due to a mixup about speaking times (we rushed from the airport to (was it Joe's?) and on to a group of waiting students at Geneva College).

How about the inn that greeted me late, with the promise of a clean bed, a quiet room, and quiche in the morning?

What of the all the presentations (six in total), one where I spoke of chocolate stripey cookies, and their potentially honorable place in the world? (a story from Alain de Botton's The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work.)

How about the (Slavic?) woman with a heavy accent, a tired face, and beautiful golden eyes (I told her, "You have beautiful eyes," and she poured out a brief story of the day's weariness. Later, I came back to a fresh room, fluffed white comforter, and I found her down the hall to say, "Thank you for cleaning my room so beautifully.")

And the chocolate bread? What of that? Special made by Raymond's, who took the order late at night (called in by a waiter who knew him and wanted me to have my chocolate bread I remembered from last year).

In the dualistic mindset Beckett speaks about, what of these things?

Raymond's Chocolate Bread

Shoes at the College Inn photo, Chocolate Bread photo, by L.L. Barkat.

HighCallingBlogs The Big Picture
Lyla's Just Another Piece of Pie
Glynn's A World Split in Two
Monica's Jesus Was More Than Hands-On

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Loving Monday: My Messy Life

Messy End Table

I have to be candid: this set of chapters in Loving Monday didn't really work for me.

Maybe it was the written structure— every chapter neatly leading into the next, with obvious signposts. Or maybe the structure was supporting a dynamic that was the real source of my discomfort...

it felt like Beckett's life was too neat— not without trouble mind you, but still too neat.

Why should this bother me? Isn't it possible that his path was indeed that directed, that overseen?

Well, yes. It is possible.

The problem is I have a tendency to want to describe life this way, in my own messy life. And it feels too simple. As a writer, I've especially struggled not to give in to the "happy ending" syndrome, even while it's true that there have been some unarguable happy endings in my experience.

Perhaps it's a matter of what's in vogue. But I wanted to see the "messy" in Beckett, in a way that connected to the messy in me.

Messy End Table photo, by L.L. Barkat.

HighCallingBlogs Strangely Warmed
Monica's God Guides the Clueless

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sometimes a Picture

Invitation at the Gate

From beautiful Kelly... images that speak beyond the words.


for Ann Voskamp

Why do we not
leave home.
Is it really for fear
of what lies
beyond, or rather
for fear that the
roof will abscond
with the doors
and the shutters
we’ve always known.
And who would they
blame if it happened
just so, if the whole
curtained place simply
picked up its stakes,
disappeared on the wind
in our absence. What
are we really afraid
of, why do we not
leave home.

Reprinted from InsideOut: poems, by L.L. Barkat.


Take a small walk over to Kelly's place, to see the poem she's paired with these frosted blossoms. Can you guess before you get there?

Photos by Kelly Langner Sauer. Used with permission. For a full-sized, gorgeous view of the top photo, visit Kelly's photo blog. (Click "Large Size" and then the Blog Tab when you get there.)

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010


Frost on Windoww

Billy's kids (not Billy
the Kid
), shot a hole
through the weather
with two ice cubes


rushed to frosted
window, blue
hoping they'd killed
a school day good,


How many times
have I pressed life to
my chest, held


flush to the hole
of desire, tightened
a rope wishing I
could cinch it

royal, good.

Frost on My Window, photo by L.L. Barkat.

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Loving Monday: Show, Don't Tell

Armory NYC

We are fond, in the writing world, of saying, "Show, don't tell." In other words: give stories, pictures, an embodiment of what you're really trying to share.

Today, rereading The Pastor as Minor Poet I was struck by Barnes' assertion that the "pastor is less interested in making an argument for the presence of Jesus Christ than in simply showing him to the congregation."

Seems to me that's true for all of us: our lives should show Jesus more than arguing for Jesus.

How does this happen in the workplace? I love that Beckett's book Loving Monday: Succeeding in Business Without Selling Your Soul doesn't begin with the question of how we show Jesus in the workplace. It begins instead with the story of a career change— from the aerospace industry to the oil burner business. Neither of these arenas seem, on the surface, to offer obvious ways to show Jesus to the world.

That's why I'm waiting for the rest of the book.

Suffice it to say, by beginning with his story, Beckett grounds everything that's to come squarely in the details of his life.

A little aside now: recently I've had the privilege of beginning to work with Laura Boggess, one of the new Content Editors at HighCallingBlogs (who'll be leading the discussion of Beckett's book). A psychologist who works with trauma patients, Laura embodies Christ to her clients through the details of her life.

She embodies Christ to her HCB co-workers too, in the way she offers to help, often without waiting to be asked. There's something comforting about working with a person who doesn't just do what she needs to get by, but who lives creatively and generously. (Speaking of creativity, you'll want to check out her blog The Wellspring and, if you know a teen reader, her book Brody's Story.)

Barnes, Beckett, Boggess, you, me, how do we show, not just tell, Jesus? I think it begins with the details of our lives.

Reflection on the Stairwell at the Armory, photo by L.L. Barkat.

Lyla's The Optional Downgrade
HighCallingBlogs' The Power of Story

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